Saturday, June 3, 2017

Los Burros Trail - Pinetop

Weather:  82ยบ, sunny

About this Hike:  I had difficulty finding the details I wanted about Los Burros online, so I'm going to try to share them here. Hopefully this helps another aspiring Los Burros explorer.

Los Burros is an easy drive from downtown Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ.  It does require about seven miles over a dirt road. Websites say it's a gravel road which to me means hard packed gravel and oil.  Oh no...this road is dirt.  It is well-maintained, graded dirt.  I didn't encounter any major potholes or washboard sections.  However, it's dirt and your car will get filthy.  I was driving in my brand new Mazda CX-3 and was not happy. But, give the road plenty of respect, especially if you're in a car, and you'll be OK.

The Los Burros trailhead originates from a campground with the same name.  It's a peaceful respite in the woods with some preserved historical U.S. Forest Service structures onsite.  The higher elevation lends to cooler temperatures.

The trail forms a giant loop said to be ~10 miles.  I chose to hike up to the fire lookout tower which was probably around eight miles round trip.  Numbered markers dot the trees along the trail and maps are available at the trailhead.  While fairly well-signed, staying on course does get tricky in places.

Hiking up to the fire tower takes you through green, flower-filled meadows; ponderosa pine forest; and even some stands of aspen.  When I reached the summit of Lake Mountain and the fire tower, a ranger was manning it and invited me up.

He was a very interesting older gentleman who had spent many a summer in what I learned is called the Lake Mountain Lookout.  This particular ranger had gone back to school for graphic design.  His artwork and photography decorates the 7x7 interior of the tower ('the cab' as they call it).  Upon my departure, he let me pick a postcard he had designed with artwork depicting Lake Mountain Lookout. Such an amazing souvenir of this hike.

Lake Mountain wasn't my first Arizona fire tower hike, and I hope it's not my last.  These towers require me to force one foot in front of the other.  With metal mesh staircases and a ladder for the final six-foot climb, these do no favors for my fear of heights.  However, the experience you have visiting these historic U.S. Forest Service structures makes the discomfort more than worth it.

So what is Lake Mountain anyway?  Well it turns out just below the fire tower there's a large, open meadow.  This has been known to fill during heavy rains, hence the name Lake Mountain Lake.  It was a marshy grassland during my visit in early June.  I noted some bones—possibly elk—strewn about the meadow.

Overall, an awesome hike worth the hassle of getting to in the White Mountains.

Lake Mountain Lake

My poor new car!